“Bring your own seat to the table because you have a voice and great ideas to share.”
With Odette Mapa, Technical Support Manager
In a fast-paced world, prioritizing self-reflection and trusting one’s intuition are essential tools for decision-making and fostering genuine connections for both personal and professional growth.
In the latest edition of our Women in Leadership series, Odette Mapa, a Technical Support Manager at CMT, recounts her transition from software engineer to her current role where she manages CMT’s US support team. She delves into the joys of problem-solving, underscores the value of self-compassion, and offers insights on confronting self-doubt and advocating for oneself.
Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.
CMT: How did you get to where you are in your career?
Odette: My background is actually in information and computer science. I started as a software engineer which I enjoyed tremendously. I like the methodical and creative process of building or solving something. Later on, I was involved in projects that exposed me to troubleshooting issues and working with customers.
I witness firsthand the frustration or confusion of a customer when something is not working the way it is expected to function. Using my knowledge of the product, I am able to explain why things work the way they do, clarify how things really work, or find a solution to address them. There is a certain level of satisfaction when you’re able to help someone, when you’re able to provide an explanation, when you’re able to make something work for a customer, and you’ve earned their trust and respect by delivering a solution or providing an answer.
CMT: Tell me about your team. How do you lead them and what are your goals?
Odette: The technical support team is a growing team with nine people based in the US. We have three engineers in Japan who are dedicated to supporting our growing Japanese business, we have three engineers in Chennai, and three in Hungary. My team is all US-based and we come from different backgrounds and a ton of various experiences. We have, believe it or not, musicians, a piano teacher, a basketball coach, a Star Wars enthusiast who runs a small prop business, and someone with the coolest radio announcer voice. I’ll let you guess who that person is.
We are all passionate about helping people and delivering world-class customer support. How do I lead them? As a manager, I work for my team and with my team. I’m here to assist them, answer questions they may have, provide guidance if needed, or help unblock them so every one of them is able to perform their tasks to the best of their abilities.
I also lead with trust and respect. These are really smart and independent technical support engineers who are committed to providing all the support to all customers be it external or internal. So, my goal for my team is to continue learning, and growing, and to keep them all engaged and motivated to do their best work.
CMT: What are the ways you balance your personal life and work life?
Odette: That’s a good question, Hayley. We all try to balance career and personal life but in my opinion and people — may agree or disagree — there is no 50/50 balance. That’s an impossible task. So, whether we like it or not the scale tilts on one side or the other so something’s got to give.
For me, instead of having that even balance, I try to find a harmonious relationship between my work and personal life. And this can be different for everyone. A few years back, life threw me a curveball. It was a scary, confusing time and as I navigated that new reality, I hit a speed bump in my career. It forced me to reflect on my priorities in life. It was also a very humbling experience to step back from my role and work so hard to get through with the future being so uncertain. I also knew at that time that if I’m lucky it will take time and extra effort to get back to where I left off. But part of the realization was that if I’m not 100% physically and mentally healthy then everything else that I do will be meaningless.
My harmonious balance was to favor my personal life to get healthy and to focus on myself. On the positive side, I was fortunate to have the help and support of the company I was employed with at the time and of course, the team that I led. They gave me the time and space to focus on my well-being and here I am now. It was all worth it.
CMT: What are the challenges you face at this stage in your career and how do you cope and overcome them?
Odette: Self-doubt has always been a big challenge for me. Early on when I was starting my career, I thought I needed to check all the boxes in a job description before I was even qualified to apply for that job. If I was missing even one item, I would think “Oh, I won’t get an interview and they won’t look at my CV. Can I even do this?” It was really crazy. So, how did I overcome that? I have discovered self-reflection. It’s a fantastic tool. It reminds me that I am capable of what I want to achieve when I set my mind to it. I know and I truly believe that I have something to bring to the table and that I’m capable of learning and contributing to the team.
I also try to surround myself with the positive energy that I get from people I interact with. The mentor/mentee program at CMT was a huge help. I learned so much from James and he was such a great listener. So, I still have moments of self-doubt but when things are rough I practice self-compassion and we all need to be kind to ourselves. Life is never a straight line. I am a work in progress and I know I’m getting better at it.
CMT: Looking back on your career, what is something you’re most proud of?
Odette: In my career, I think I’m most proud of being able to overcome the challenges along the way. Being able to accomplish something that I really didn’t know about and trying to make good use of my time to help others. I think it’s very important and like what I said, there is a certain level of satisfaction in being able to help people.
CMT: What is one piece of advice you wish to share with women in the industry?
Odette: Learn and practice advocating for yourself. It doesn’t need to just be at work. It can be your own health management. We all know our capabilities, we all know our bodies more than our doctors. So if you feel or think something is off, say something and take action. We all have great ideas to share and believe that our voices will be heard. Speak up.
There was someone who was a very positive influence in my life and he said “Sometimes there is no seat for you at the table and when that happens, bring your own seat.” Bring your own chair because you have a voice and you have great ideas to share.